“The greatest inhibitor to sales effectiveness is the inability to communicate a value message.” – SiriusDecisions
Sales organizations make huge investments in hiring salespeople, getting them upskilled and productive quickly, implementing sales enablement and technology solutions, but when it comes to focusing on the quality of activities that create the sales experience from the very first touchpoint onward, there is a gap. A pretty big one. I’m talking about the sales message that is delivered either through email or phone calls.
Automation has made it easy to crank out large numbers of emails each day, and often this is where salespeople start when they are pursuing their target list of buyers. Probably for a very obvious reason. Someone ignoring your email feels less like personal rejection than when making the phone calls. Still, most sales leaders tend to have a KPI (key performance indicator) that measures the number of phone calls made, in addition to the number of emails sent. And, I’ll just say right now that I think the focus on these two measurements as sales performance indicators is off base. Here’s why.
What does it matter if I call 100 people each day if this activity doesn’t result in a higher percentage of booked sales meetings? The answer is pretty simple. It doesn’t make sense.
If you are a salesperson who knows your sales performance is largely measured on calls made and emails sent, you’ll likely do whatever you have to do to hit those numbers. You may have checked the KPI boxes, but what you end up with is a lot of activity that wasn’t very effective.
On Dave Kurlan’s Blog, Understanding the Sales Force, I read a recent post of his that makes it clear that salespeople are having a difficult time bypassing gatekeepers and getting to the decision makers. His research indicates that when salespeople do not begin with procurement, they can only get through the gatekeepers to decision makers 13% of the time. But Dave filtered his research data even further to focus on salespeople brand new to sales and that percentage drops to 1%. Though it isn’t the subject of today’s post, ponder for a moment that many of the salespeople hired for Sales Development or Business Development Roles are brand new to selling. They are expected to reach decision makers and set up the appointment for the account executive, but they get through to the targeted person 1% of the time.
When salespeople are making all those dials and sending all those emails, why aren’t sales leaders evaluating more carefully when the activity isn’t converting to actual sales conversations. Though I don’t have hard research data to back it up, my observations suggest that what happens is that sales reps are just asked to do more. Doing more of the same, however, isn’t going to lead to a better outcome. In Cracking the Sales Management Code, authors Jason Jordon and Michelle Vazzana tell us that “success is no longer found in making enough sales calls to reach your quota. That is a trial and error marathon that you may or may not win. Success is now found in making the right sales calls to achieve the right Sales Objectives to reach your quota – a quicker and more predictable path to the winner’s circle.”
The big problem isn’t the activity itself. Instead, it is the quality of the activity. Poorly conceived subject lines. Messages that do not contain an ounce of value for the target buyer. Messages that include gimmicks to get attention. Sales emails and phone calls more often than not are sender oriented, and usually include a mix of look how great we are and a laundry list of features. Survey after survey confirms that buyers say these messages do not engage them. Rather than standing out, the salesperson’s message goes in the delete pile with everyone else’s. But, the cycle of poorly constructed sales messaging rages on.
Throughout the course of the sales experience lifecycle, many things can go wrong but if you can’t even get on first base, where do you go? What salespeople say in the first interaction with a potential buyer is critical to moving from touch to sales conversation. Maybe it’s time to stop wasting the opportunity!